It’s fair to say I seem to have rediscovered some of the magic and joy and spirit of Christmas since the birth of my two little boys. It’s not that I was quite auditioning to be in grumpy old men yet, but as you reach adulthood certain things about Christmas do lose their sparkle a bit.
By comparison Asher is just four and Father Christmas is the great new discovery of 2012. He did love Christmas last year, but he’s young enough not to remember anything from twelve months ago, so everything has the added excitement of being brand new.
Asher loves the tree, and the decorations, and the food. He loves the stockings, and the story of Father Christmas, and the story of the nativity too.
But there’s one thing he doesn’t quite get yet, though I pray he one day will. And that’s that behind all the presents and the tree and the decorations and the Christmas Spirit and the nativity story is a reality, an event, so amazing that every soul on earth deserves to hear it.
“Peace on earth”, sang the angels, but what kind of peace? Murderous King Herod was still on his throne as Jesus grew up. In fact the peace was of an even more important sort than between nations or tribes or families – peace between earth and heaven.
The story of humanity so far has largely been one of conflict, and the same goes of the relationship between people and God. But Christmas celebrates a huge change in that story.
In Jesus, God, like the parent in a dysfunctional family where no one has spoken for years, makes the first decisive move to bring peace and reconciliation with humanity. And how? By coming to earth himself as a human being so that friendship with God is possible. Christians call this the Incarnation of the Son of God.
Asher doesn’t quite get this yet. Not the big words, not the peace on earth, not quite even the friendship with God.
I asked him the other night, actually, as I was putting him to bed. “Asher, are you friends with Jesus?” “Yes”, he replied. “So let’s thank Jesus – what shall we thank Jesus for today, Asher?”
“Everything”, he said. “Everything – why everything?” “Because if we say ‘everything’ we can stop and say Amen.”
He’s a crafty one, but one day my prayer is that he will really get it – prayer that is. That behind the ‘Dear Jesus’ and the palms held together and the words we say and the Amen is the reality that God is not so far away, in fact he is very near. Have you felt his presence this Christmastime?
We can all be a bit like my 4 year old son. We can focus on the signs – the presents and the food and the beautiful music and the readings and even the prayers, but has the penny ever dropped about the glorious reality behind it? The most amazing thing about the Christmas story is summed up in that word that people called Jesus – Emmanuel – God with us. God alongside us, ahead of us, behind us, within us, among us when we meet together. Once we realise this we’re never alone, never without hope, always with purpose in our lives.
Does it feel like that this Christmas. Are those Christmas carols singing to you as you sing them? Have the readings we’ve heard spoken spoken to you? Christmas comes but once a year, but the real Spirit of Christmas is a message and a reality which lasts the whole year long, in your heart and mine, if we will but let our saviour in.
As the words of the carol say “O come let us adore him”.
Have a very Merry and Spirit-filled Christmas, and blessed beginning to 2013.
(Something a bit like the talk given at our service of Nine Lessons and Carols on Saturday 22nd )